Thursday, October 1, 2015

Breastfeeding: a year in review

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a year. Children need either breastmilk or formula for the first year. My mom breastfed me and my two siblings for a year each. I grew up just assuming that was the norm. My sister breastfed my nephew for a year. It was best for baby, it was the norm in my family, medical professionals said to do it, and on top of all that, it was free, which formula certainly is not.

While I was pregnant, I knew my intention was to breastfeed for a year. 

My final moments of pregnancy. Glamorous.

I “prepared” for this. I read a book. I took the class at the hospital. My sister lent me her nursing tanks and bras. I added breastmilk storage bags, nipple pads, and bottles specifically designed for the breastfed baby to my registry. I ordered my pump from insurance in the 8th month. When it arrived, I carefully read all the directions and sanitized all the parts.

I’m sure we all see where this is going. Of course, when Dalton arrived, there was nothing that could have prepared me. All the books said babies were supposed to nurse as soon as possible after delivery, within the first hour. Of course, that was out the window. I spent the first hour of his life getting stitched up on an operating table, while he was whisked off to a NICU nurse to make sure he hadn’t aspirated any meconium in the womb. It was probably 2 or 3 hours before I once again had feeling in my hands and could even hold him. I was barely conscious, and a nice nurse came to the recovery room and told me I should try nursing now, since he was awake. I had no clue what I was doing, but he latched on and I think she indicated all was well. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours at this point, and was on morphine, so it’s all quite hazy.

OMG brand new baby!!!!

We got to our hospital room at 3:30am on Wednesday. I’d been awake since 5am Monday, and I finally got some broken sleep in between the nurses bringing Dalton in to nurse, checking my vitals, and the inflating compression sleeves on my calves. At 7:30, our pediatrician came in to tell me Dalton had a tongue tie. I was so out of it at this point I barely even remembered having a baby, but I tried to pretend I knew what she was talking about. Later that morning, the lactation consultants came to my room to help me. Although he had latched before (because nothing will ever come between this kid and food, even being 3 hours old and having a clueless mom who doesn’t know how to hold him to the boob!), I was pretty far off from doing it right and they helped me quite a bit.

I still don’t know how I got so lucky. Even with the tongue tie, everything was relatively easy from day 1. He always had dirty diapers and had surpassed his birth weight within a week. Everyone had warned me of the pain, but I never thought it was that bad (although I was on painkillers from the surgery). He was fairly regular, nursing every 2 hours with some cluster feeds thrown in there. It was a two man operation at first. Eric would have to hold his tiny hands so he didn’t push the nipple out of his mouth, and I would have to compress and help him latch. We didn’t understand how it took two adults to overpower a 6 pound baby so we could feed him, but somehow it did.

We got his tongue tie fixed at a week old, and then things got even easier. While on maternity leave, breastfeeding seemed pretty simple. Dalton was pretty regular, feeding every two hours, sometimes 3 at night, and some very rare times, 4. But he was a fast eater, right from the start, so generally nursing would only take ten minutes or so.

Just like for so many other women, exclusive breast feeding was smooth sailing, but once I went back to work, things got tricky. Pretty much every breastfeeding book will emphasize the importance of spending as much time as possible with your baby, so that’s pretty helpful when you have to work for a living. Dalton began daycare at 3 months old, and I spent the next 8 months pumping like crazy and constantly obsessing over how much I was producing. He was still eating every 2-3 hours at night when I returned to work, probably until about six or seven months old (it's all a blur). On maternity leave, Eric would give him a bottle for one night feeding, but back at work I was not about to pump one second more than necessary, so all night feeds were straight from the tap.

I went back around Christmas, so here Dalton is sleeping on a nursing pillow in a Christmas outfit.

Months 3-6 were the most challenging in terms of pumping. Dalton was growing so much, his appetite was ramping up, we were figuring out daycare, and my body was getting used to pumping instead of nursing. It was stressful. I didn’t want to supplement unless there was a true medical need (fussiness was not a reason to start formula for me). As Dalton got more comfortable at daycare, his fussiness subsided even though his bottles remained the same (which supported my theory that it wasn’t due to hunger). One of my huge goals was to make it through the school year, so that was a good feeling when it happened.

I was forced to eat so many lactation cookies. Anything for the baby.

At six months, we started solids, and even though he didn’t really take to them until 7 months, it started to take some of the pressure off. If he was hungry at daycare, he could have a banana. Everything I read says food before one is just for fun, it’s supposed to be a supplement to breast milk, not a replacement, etc. This was true around 7 months but by 9-10 months, this kid just took off with solids and that was not the case for him. He wanted a burger, not a boob.

At ten months, I went through utter hell with nightmarish clogged ducts and top teeth drawing blood every time we nursed. 

I almost threw in the towel. But, I’m really glad I pushed through. I went to boob PT, pumped the left side and didn’t let him near it until he healed, and we kept going. Even though his sessions were insanely short by that point (2-3 minutes, tops), I’m still glad we had those. 

Just before 11 months, a new school year began, and I made the executive decision to be done pumping. I sent milk from my frozen stash to daycare (only 6oz per day though). We nursed morning and night, and the middle of the night. He hadn’t been nursing in the middle of the night much, but the new school year was a hot mess. Even though Dalton had been in daycare all summer, part time, it really messed with his world (and mine, to be honest) and sleep went down the drain. Those were tough times. But on the bright side, the middle of the night was the only good nursing sessions he had! We did a lot of co-sleeping here.

And luckily, he's cute (only 2 months old here!)

Finally, we got back to a good place with sleep, and just a week and a half before his first birthday, Dalton was done with breastfeeding. He just refused. He’d stopped nursing in the middle of the night and before bed, so we were down to only a morning session of maybe 2 minutes. Then, suddenly, that was done. I offered a few more times, but he wasn’t interested. Since weaning was such a gradual process, I had very, very minimal engorgement (about the time I quit the pump) and no pain. It also wasn’t as difficult emotionally as I’d expected. The last two months were so stressful, difficult, and painful (with the clogs) that I was just grateful to have made it the whole year without losing my mind in the process. I was sad when I realized I’d never get to have a “last time” that I knew about, and I do miss it sometimes, but there’s so many more fun things we get to do together now.

At one, he's ridiculously fun.

I’m still working through my freezer stash, so he’s still getting breast milk even now. I’m not sure how long it will last for. He’s getting cow’s milk too, since that’s provided at daycare (the doctor said it was fine to give him both). As thrilled as I am to have made it a year, I feel like it puts even more pressure on me when we have a second kid, because I’ll want to do the same to keep things “even”. Dumb, I know, but true. Plus, now I know how much I love breastfeeding, so I really hope to get another year in at some point.

And that's the story of my year of breastfeeding my first child. I'd love to hear other mom's experiences! If you're not a mom, share your favorite cookie to eat with milk!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Adventures with a one year old

I refuse to call him a toddler until he officially walks. Getting close doesn't count. Until then, he's still a baby.

We tried to get some fancy one year pictures Friday after work. We went to a really cute park.

Did not work out.
This little baby model was not a happy camper at all. Once we gave up and headed home, he screamed bloody murder the whole way and nothing would soothe him. That's so unlike him, he's usually the happiest kid ever. I was dying inside. Torture.

Saturday morning, I found the culprit - a new tooth had popped through. Teeth ruin everything. But I guess they are pretty necessary.

On Saturday, we were all out the door by 6am, and Eric and Dalton shared an important first together.
First train ride!
To the Big Apple! Of course, all we saw of Manhattan was Penn Station, but they have legit NYC bagels and cookies, so I was ok with that. Dalton loved the train and had the time of his life. It was all too exciting for him to possibly nap, but that was expected.

After we arrived in New York, we took the Long Island Railroad out to a super fancy house on Long Island for Emily's baby shower.

In one picture Eric's eyes were closed, in one picture my eyes were closed. I made the obvious choice. 

Woken up at 5:30, no nap, in a strange, non baby proofed house, and this kid could not have been more sweet and smiley. Naturally, he was the hit of the party. I met Emily through the internet, of course, that's where cool people meet friends these days. She's having a boy, and as we all know, I'm biased, so I'm extra excited for her.

After that, Nikki, one of my good friends from college came all the way out to pick us up so we could spend the night with her family.

Toy heaven!
I'd met her daughter several times, but neither of us had met each other's little boys yet.

I know I'm beating a dead horse here with the whole omg where does time go??? nonsense but seriously I swear we were in college 5 minutes ago. And now we have three kids between the two of us. HOW??

Teachers are known for their high salaries and deluxe accommodations. We got the princess suite.

Generally, if you are a teacher, you can either have one child and a guest room, or two children and no guest room. Not both. Unless you were wise enough to marry someone rich. We are enjoying that guest room while it lasts. 

While we were visiting Nikki, Dalton took FOUR STEPS! Everyone saw it and he's been doing it consistently since! He is definitely not officially walking yet, but he's getting more and more steady and choosing to move around by taking steps instead of crawling. 

Dalton's first birthday party is this weekend. Hurricane Joaquin is putting a bit of a damper on that, but at least Dalton was excited to check out the rain.
He looks so big. I can't handle it. 
I have done exactly zero things to prepare for his party. Should be awesome. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dalton's First Birthday

We've officially made it a whole year on this wild ride called parenthood.

I keep trying to think of something to say about it that's not ridiculously cliche, but I guess I'm not exactly the first person wishing their kid a happy birthday and lamenting about how time flew by. So many cheesy sentiments are flying through my head, but, as I've said before, no one wants to read that. I'll just say this: having this kid in my life is unbelievably amazing. I'm crazy about him (if you haven't noticed).

Fabulous first birthday shirt made just for him by his Aunt Darcy
I've spent the day reminiscing about everything that was happening a year ago at this time. I started yesterday, actually, since that's when I went into labor. Reflecting back, I definitely can't say his actual birth day was the best day of my life, since all but 44 minutes of it were spent in labor, and I didn't even get to hold him until the following day.

Last night, it was just blowing my mind that a year ago he didn't even exist outside my belly, and now here he was, sitting next to me, demanding that his father give him constant bites of his chicken sandwich.

As soon as his kid's meal was gone, he started in on Eric's dinner.
While the fact that my sweet little baby isn't technically a baby any more (or is he? he can't walk yet!) is breaking my heart, we had an amazing time celebrating today. Dalton is just so considerate. Not only did he come on his due date, but he planned ahead, and arrived on a day when we would have off from work the following year. Today is Yom Kippor, schools were closed, and we got to spend the whole day as a family.

Family picture after four shots and a cupcake. A miracle
To back up, we've actually been living the sweet life, finding out what things are like for the other half. Our daycare is on vacation this week, so my stepfather has generously been staying with us to take care of Dalton. Daycare moms - do you know how awesome it is having a live in nanny? For real, we are missing out. I haven't packed a diaper bag or done pick up all week.

What that means is, Eric and I could finally go on a date night. We had a wild night out to Friendly's to celebrate the fact that we made it a whole year with a living, breathing child.

I did not let him actually touch my Reese's sundae
Dalton was super excited about his birthday, so much so that he woke up at 5am today, which is truly unheard of for him. No matter though, just more time to celebrate together! After a morning of playing, he took an early nap, which was perfect since we had a 1pm pediatrician checkup.

Birthday naptime cuddles - be still my heart
That's right - for Dalton's birthday, we thoughtfully got him four shots and a blood draw! #parentsoftheyear Seriously though, he didn't know the difference, and otherwise we would have had to take off from work. I was basically a basket case because I heard the one year shots are pretty rough. So rough, in fact, that I went and waited on a bench outside until the needles were gone. #motheroftheyear. (To further ruin his life, we also put magnetic locks on all his favorite cabinets, since he figured out how to undo all the old child locks.)

I wasn't proud, but Dalton isn't nursing any more, so there's really nothing I have to offer him that Eric can't provide. I felt it would be easier on Eric to comfort only a baby, not a baby and a hysterical lady. It turns out I overreacted, as usual, he didn't care in the least, and only was pissed when he was being held down. His blood draw bandage (around his thumb) was gone by the time we got home and after some frantic searching through his mouth and then acceptance that he ate it, I found it in his car seat. He was definitely clingy and not his usual happy self the rest of the afternoon, but who could blame him?

Our friends Liz and Noah came over to play.

He always gets mad when food is gone. Noah tried to comfort him.

Dalton really rallied. He took his very first step without holding on to something! Step, singular, he's not walking. He's been sooooo close for weeks, we catch our breath at least once a day thinking he's going to do it. He's an insanely fast crawler, even the doctor was impressed. Walking just isn't appealing to him so far.

After playtime, it was time for the classic birthday treat - a cupcake. Chocolate with peanut butter frosting.

I even made the frosting look fancy!

While I am NOT at all restrictive with Dalton's diet, the one dessert I've denied him until now is cake. I wanted it to be special! It's not like he knows the difference, much like shots on his birthday.


I know some babies, like my nephew, can be very tentative with their first taste of cake and icing. We didn't expect that to be the case here, and we were right.

He dove right in with no reservations.

After devouring the entire cupcake, he screamed bloody murder when it was gone, which was no surprise, because that's how I generally react when I finish dessert as well. He consoled himself by eating the bottom part of the candle.

Since the doctor gave us the go ahead to introduce cow's milk, we jumped right in. Does anything go better with a nice rich cupcake than a nice cold sippy cup of milk? I think not. Again, I've heard some babies have trouble transitioning, but what can I say? This kid is just perfect. 

Chugged that milk without missing a beat. 
 Hands down, best year of my life.

What year was the best year of your life? I guess next year at this time, I'll have to reevaluate.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lessons learned this weekend

1. Practice your dismounts.

My friend invited us to this amazing lake house with a private dock for Friday happy hour. Dalton has never been in open water, only pools, so I was really excited. He loved it, and had a fantastic time splashing around.

I was a little nervous climbing down the ladder to get into the water while wearing him. I should have practiced first, because I jumped off at the end instead of just carefully stepping down the whole way. I slammed my elbow into the rung, with my entire body weight AND Dalton's. It hurt.

For the raft, I had to call in reinforcements.
Nothing says family pic like eating a pouch. 

2. I'm not a germaphobe.

We went to my friend's housewarming party Saturday night. Everyone was freaking out when Dalton started eating chips off her deck (um, he put them there to begin with). We were like....not poison, not a choking hazard. It's fine.

Food from the floor? No problem. 

3. My days of sleeping in are done and I can't even blame the baby.

Times I woke up this weekend: 5am, 5:40am, 6am (we have today off from work). Times Dalton woke up: 7am or later. I just COULD NOT go back to sleep. It was so sad. Last night I even went out for my friend's birthday, and stayed out until nearly 11pm! Wakeup time the next morning: 6.

Baby tush in the air. My favorite.

4. Babies get a say.

I have, probably too extensively, documented my long suffering journey to breastfeed for a year on this blog. Finally, when this school year began, and Dalton was nearly 11 months old, I knew I had made it. I had enough in the freezer to stop pumping and just send frozen milk to daycare, and the pump was where all my problems stemmed from (well, most). I was so excited at the thought of nursing him on his first birthday, after I'd spent so many rough days thinking there was no way we would get there.

Well, we didn't. I failed to consider that someone else was part of this equation, and that someone else has an increasingly strong opinion about things.

Just 11 days before his birthday, Dalton decided he was done. We were down to only nursing when he woke up in the morning, and on Saturday, he refused that. I tried again in the afternoon, and the next morning, but he's done. He chugged 6 oz of breast milk from a sippy cup in about 3 minutes instead. I'm still rounding up and counting it as a year, even though that does feel like cheating. He will continue to get breast milk in a cup even past a year (until it runs out).

It gives me all the feelings. The past 2 months were really difficult, full of top teeth and clogged ducts. Not having the stress of pumping at work has felt like the world's biggest weight has been lifted. But I'm still sad. I loved our quiet times nursing. 

5. Don't try out blackout shades the morning of a birthday party with a bouncy castle. 

I wouldn't say naptimes have been bad in our house, but there's always room for improvement. We bought blackout curtains from groupon while I was pregnant. They did not black anything out. I got some blackout shades that were highly rated on Amazon this week, and they definitely darkened the room quite a bit.

The first time we used them was Sunday morning. Dalton took a practically unprecedented three hour nap, right through a 3rd birthday party we had planned to attend with a bouncy castle. I didn't even know about the bouncy castle, and we got there as it was winding down so that we could at least say Happy Birthday and drop off the gift. We still bounced, but it wasn't the same. 

He climbed right up the slide with the big kids. No fear. 
6. Likes and dislikes can be inherited. 

After the bouncy castle, we met our good friends at a farm.

Despite appearances, they did enjoy the visit.
The boys loved the hayride.

But while Nathan was happily feeding the goats, my child was a little more...hesitant.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate all living creatures other than humans (and even those are touch and go). I really didn't want to pass this on. Dalton's daycare has two dogs, so that starting from 3 months old he has been exposed daily to pets. But I guess there's no arguing with biology. The picture above says it all. I can't stop laughing at it. 

What lesson did you learn this weekend?

Any fellow animal haters or non-germophobes out there?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

That time we did all the kid things in Baltimore and loved life

This has certainly been a monumental week.

Here in Baltimore, everyone spends holidays going to the beach. Being out of staters, we never got into that tradition. Pre-parenthood, we probably would have spent the entire 3 day weekend watching movies and ordering pizza or something, but it's all hazy now. In our current life, we took advantage of the city practically being empty to do ALL THE KID THINGS. And it was the best.

We kicked off Friday happy hour at Storyville (Eric actually didn't make this one, he was still at work.) I promise Dalton wasn't completely angry, he was more just annoyed and confused because everything was awesome and he couldn't play with them all at once.

This place is confusingly wonderful
I know it's beating a dead horse but it still blows my mind that I used to think running for like 5 hours was a great way to spend a Saturday. I met up with the buggy brigade for 6 stroller miles on a flat trail and then kept it moving.

Are these kids adorable, or are these kids adorable??
Saturday night we had our newly betrothed friends over for a little baby mini barbecue. I made peach cobbler from scratch. It was heaven in my mouth.
Yeah, this picture is mostly ice cream and whipped cream, but trust me, it was good.

We ended the night watching Dating Naked. I hadn't even known the premise before, but it was weirdly addicting. We couldn't stop.

Sunday, we hit the Science Center.

They have an entire baby room of soft mats and baby toys, plus a gigantic water table, and Dalton was, once again, out of his mind with excitement.

Future mathematician?

Sometimes the most exciting exhibits have nothing on just looking back at daddy.
The fun didn't stop there. Monday, one of my best friends since middle school came up from Virginia with her family to meet us at Port Discovery, a children's museum. This is actually the one big kid place I haven't previously visited on a field trip, and it was unreal. We probably didn't even see a quarter of it. There were rope bridges up to the ceiling (several stories up), a Lego castle, a mystery house...I could go on and on. Obviously, we can't wait to bring Dalton a billion times as he grows up.

Lego Castle!

It doesn't take much to rock his world
These cuties, I can't stand it!
Dalton and his buddy Nate - born only 8 days apart! 
Former Alyssa probably would have read this post thinking life as a parent is awful, all you do is cart your kid around to kiddie places. But, it turns out, you get to indulge your own inner kid (especially Eric) while getting to see your kid freak out with happiness, which is pretty much the ultimate win.

Dalton's day at daycare today probably seemed a tad boring in comparison to such a kick ass labor day weekend.

"Where's the giant water table? Bounce house? ANYTHING?"

We did get out early due to heat today, so at least we got a little extra play time together. 

Kid places: pure bliss or pure hell? Our bliss this weekend was definitely brought on by the emptiness of every location. At full volume I'd probably feel somewhat differently.